Women’s Consultation :: Exploitation of Women-Equality & justice

“Women’s Consultation”
“Exploitation of Women-Equality & justice”

 

Rosaline Costa

Women’s situation in general is that women are considered to be second-class human beings with few re-sponsibilities in the families. They are to be the subjects of men in every sphere of life and are expected to be under the guidance and control of male members of the family.

  1. Justice based equality – equal dignity, respect and human values are inalienable rights of women as that of men according to UN Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and CEDAW. {19 Dec. 1979 signed, 3 Sept. 1981 Ratified and Bangladesh Approved it in 1984 with reservations Art. 2, 13(a), 16:1(c) and 16:1(f). Bangladesh withdrew reservations Art. 13(a) and 16:1(f) in 20 July 1997}.
    The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights shows us the way for real development – the integrated development of persons which results national and universal development. The very first sentence of the preamble of the UNDHR summarizes the whole document stating:
    “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
    The above sentence is the base of all equality of all women and men in respect to their human dignity, recognition and respect in the world. Each and every human being got those rights which are inalienable and nobody can deprive her or him from those rights.
    We see the interrelationship of the words and the meaning of the first sentence of the Preamble as follows:
    Rights: A just and fair claim to anything whatsoever.
    Duty: A moral or legal obligation.
    Dignity: Worth Merit.
    Law: All the rules of conduct established and enforced by the authority, legislation or custom of a given community.
    Justice: A virtue which given to everyone.
    Freedom: Political liberty, exemption from control of some arbitrary power or from arbitrary restric-tions on a specified human rights.
  2. There are other instruments that grant equal rights to men and women. Bangladesh Constitution guaran-tees for equality of women and men and prohibits all kinds of discriminations based only on sex, religion, caste and creed. Some of the articles are as follows:
    a) Art. 7(i): All powers in the Republic belong to the people, and their exercise on behalf of the peo-ple shall be effective only under, and by the authority of this constitution.
    b) Art. 15: It shall be a fundamental responsibility of the state to attain, through planned economic growth, a constant increase of productive forces and a steady improvement in the material and cul-tural standard of living of the people, with a view to securing to its citizens –
    c) Art. 15(a): Women have the provision of the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care;
    d) Art. 15(b): Women have the right to work, that is the right to guaranteed employment at a reason-able wage having regard to the quantity and quality of work;
    e) Art. 15(c): Women have the right to rest, recreation and leisure;
    f) Art. 15(d): Women have the right to social security, public assistance in cases of undeserved want arising from unemployment, illness or disablement, or suffered by widows or orphans or in old age, or in other such cases.
    g) Art. 17: Free and compulsory education for all children (female and male).
    h) Art. 19(i): The state shall endeavour to ensure equal opportunity to all citizens (men and women);
    i) Art. 27: All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law;
    j) Art. 28(ii): The state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
    k) Art. 28(iii): No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth be sub-jected to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to access to any place or pub-lic entertainment or resort, or admission to any educational institution.
    l) Art. 29(i): There should be equality of opportunity for all citizens (women and men) in respect of employment or office in the service of the Republic (Equality of opportunity in public employ-ment).
    m) Art. 29(ii): No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, be ineli-gible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office in the service of the Re-public.
    – The existing 2 crore of Khas lands, marshes and dead ponds belong justly and equally for all poor and homeless women and men.
  3. All religions keep men superior to women for rituals and leading the services in the religious places having more power and authority over the women which is a gross violation of human rights of women as human being. If God the creator is discriminative then we cannot call God a just one;
  4. Realities of our society – rape, killing, fatwa and stoning to death, acid burning for refusing love affair, some humiliating and discriminative terminology such as ‘prostitute’ indicates only to women and which is unjust too because men also commit the same crime/sin and they are not identi-fied by that name, polygamy, trafficking of women and children for sex business, teasing (commit suicide for not getting justice after they are teased and harassed by the unruly youths), etc. There are some other areas where the women suffer from their birth:
    – Double burden for women who has a job outside her home – working place and home;
    – Deprived of daily necessary food, rest/recreation;
    – Women and children are always considered in the same level of humanity;
    – Women slavery still exists – trafficking of women and children;
    – Domestic labour/household work done by women (over 70 per cent) – child bearing and rearing).
    – Dowry (what kind of economic and social business? If the man is so expensive why does he/his family beg from a poor family for money, goods, etc?);
    – Divorce of women or remarriage for women is most difficult or most easy most humiliating for women (when a woman becomes widow the society blames her fate but when a woman dies and the man becomes widow, he becomes fortunate. Why this difference of attitude?)
    – Fetus killing/girl child killing;
    – Unjust wages for equal work or no just recognition for her work;
    – Trafficking of children and women for sex trade (who profits?);
  5. Discriminations in jobs, working places, low pay for the same quantity and quality of work. The atti-tude of the male dominated society should be changed today when a lot of women have already shown their skill, talents and capability that if given the opportunity, women can do as those of men and in some cases women can do better than the men. It is the men who have to change their attitude towards women that they are weak, unable to do things like those of men, inferior in education or contributing in the soci-ety.
  6. Women are being kept bondage and idle. They are not idle or disable by themselves but the society, en-vironment and the customs or culture or religion keep them what they are today. They are not free, not recognized, not appreciated or valued for their contribution in the family or society or state. In some cases we are told that the women some are the enemy of women and women give mental or physical torture to women. It may be true in some cases but why do these women act in such way? If we go deeper, we can see that these exploiters of women had seen the same thing in their families or they were once victims of such injustice and discriminations. It is the environment by which she was influenced.
  7. Bangladesh earns more than 76 per cent of foreign money by working in the garment industry, now the biggest industry in the country. There are about 4500 export-oriented garment factories owned by about 2500-3000 owners. There are 2.5 million workers employed in that sector out of whom about 90 per cent are women. They are creating a small group of people from rich to richer. They contribute to the national income but little benefit they get from their hard labour. They don’t have access to trade union to fight for their just rights.
  8. CEDAW stressed the governments to abide by human rights documents allowing women and men to develop their integrated personality, society, country and the universe. Art. 3 of CEDAW urges the gov-ernment to create an environment for full development of women to get their fundamental rights equal to those of men especially in their social, political, economical, cultural areas.
  9. It is the responsibility of the state and the government to implement the UN and other relevant docu-ments for ensuring the rights of women. But we could see that in Bangladesh after the “National Women Development Policy-2008” was brought before the public, there was a strong protest from a very small section of Islamic Mullahs who even did not read the whole document to see what there were. They just shouted saying that if the document is implemented, Koran will be violated. There is no connection be-tween this document and Koran, because the national policy paper is life-oriented for the national inte-grated development and it has nothing to do with Koran. On the other hand Koran is a spiritual book to guide people who follow it toward right path, to love and honor God and people, to be away from commit-ting crimes, from hating and creating problem for others, to give due respect to other human beings irre-spective of their faith or belief, etc. and to be tolerant with everyone. These protestors held rally breaking emergency in the country, attacked ordinary people and police, beat them up seriously injuring one police by his gun which was snatched by the terror and militant group. They took shelter in the national mosque Baitul Mukarram, burn the carpets on the mosque to create panic in the area, attacked the police stations in Dhaka as well as in Chittagong and Rajshahi. Most of the attackers were madrasha students and the day was Friday, the prayer day for the Muslims. From prayers and following the religion we learn to be toler-ant, peaceful, loving and patient but a group of Muslim militants/terrors is creating panic in the country by using Islam. The other secular and progressive-minded Muslims seemed to be afraid to speak against this group or protest their unruly activities. It was to divert the whole nation from the movement and demand the people are asking from this government to bring these terrors and Islamic militants to justice. Today people of all walks of life have come to a point in demanding the trial of the war criminals. It is time that all these war criminals, who want to keep the women behind the door and throw our country in the dark-ness, be brought to trial and save the country from their clutches.

    What to do?
    1. If we all want to get rid of such an environment where the women cannot have their fundamental rights, cannot contribute their skills, capacity, ability and human values to the society, we have to urge the government to take necessary action for it;
    2. We have to be united against those anti-women development forces or those who are against women’s human rights;
    3. Women and men should be educated and change their attitude towards the women and their role as well as place in the society;
    4. Education for women should be widened and more opportunities for them should be created to take different jobs and works in the society;
    5. “National Women Development Policy-2008” should be implemented as it is, ignoring the amend-ment and recommendations submitted by the Mullah groups/committee;
    6. Full implementation of CEDAW keeping no reservation;
    7. Stop all kinds of women exploitations by properly using the existing legal provisions of the coun-tries;
    8. Integrate women at all levels of national development with equal dignity respecting their capacity, skill, creativity and ability;
    9. Promote and protect women’s human rights in every level of the society in order to establish de-mocracy, human rights and justice in our countries.

Conclusion

I would like to stress very strongly that we all should be aware about the realities today where the funda-mentalists or patriarchal culture is taking the women more than five hundred years behind even in 21st century. If we want to save our future generation from such exploitation at home, at work-places and at the national level and give them a healthy society, we should give more importance to a secular education or co-education, communal harmony, non-formal or life-oriented education, inter-religious dialogue, pro-motion of democracy at home and in the state, create awareness among the people about the abuse of re-ligion and religious influence.

Therefore I would like to put some recommendations:

1. Awareness program about women’s exploitation at home should be conducted often involving women and men of the families;
2. Mothers should be educated not to discriminate male and female children at home in her dealings with them;
3. We should strongly protest any kind of women exploitation in our neighboring situa-tion/environment and we, from our ‘person’ should be example to others;
4. Every person here should be determined not to exploit any woman at home or allow any exploita-tion in our working areas;
5. We, Bangladeshis should stress on the implementation of the “National Women Development Policy-2008” to ensure our real national integrated development;
6. CEDAW, one of the best documents of the United Nations to protect the women and to integrate them in the national development should be implemented in every country for greater interest of the region;
7. Children (girl) and women trafficking should be stopped and the perpetrators should be given ex-emplary punishment;
8. Total prohibition of child to be used for pornography and severe punished should be imposed on the perpetrators;
9. All connotations and abusive words to address or indicate the women to humiliate them should be banned (such as ‘prostitute’);
10. We all should put our sincere efforts to create an environment for women and men to live and work together with equal dignity, rights and respect.

I am hopeful that if all of us can change our mind towards women in general in accepting every person as they are with due respect, honor and dignity, if we can change out oriental attitude that women are born to be a subject to men in every step of life, that women are inferior to men, then we will be able to change the whole society one day. We should remember, “CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME.”
**The Paper has been written for Oikosnet-Asia/ACISCA International workshop on the subject “Women’s Consultation” on 5 May 2008 at HOPE Foundation.

5 May 2008

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